“We need the best of many – not of just a few… We must strive for excellence.”

Stephen Lewis, Jane Philpott, James Fraser

This morning Stephen Lewis was the keynote speaker at our Hot Talks event.  After his powerful address, I asked the audience to do 3 things: donate, educate, activate.

The 1st goal – to donate – is the most measurable and perhaps the simplest step to take. The results are priceless. Clearly one of the essential aims of the campaign is to raise money for great recipient organizations – the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International.

A 2nd goal of Give a Day (GAD) is to educate or “raise awareness” about HIV in the world. And this actually thrills me as much as our fund-raising success.  We keep people talking about important global social issues related to the theme of HIV. Give a Day educates us. And education is so critical – it’s what GK Chesterton calls the “soul of a society”.

Beyond GAD’s challenge to donate & educate is a 3rd goal – to activate. I hope GAD will inspire you to do even more than giving and learning.  A good education leads inevitably to action. Wm Butler Yeats, the Irish poet (and later politician), said “Education is not filling a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I want to light a fire with this campaign.  And I’d like that fire to burn brightly, to show a vision of a new and better future for the people and places affected by HIV.

48 years ago today, I was a toddler living in snowy Winnipeg Manitoba. On this day 48 years ago, my mother was in our Winnipeg kitchen making a 3-year-old birthday cake for me. Her work was interrupted when she heard on the television that President John F Kennedy had been shot. For our society, it remains one of the most memorable days in modern history. A great man and incomparable leader had his life brutally cut short.  I think about the Kennedy family each year on November 22. I wish I had known the parents of John F Kennedy.  I often wonder: what were the ingredients that inspired the Kennedy siblings to be such leaders – lights and fires – for their generation? But they did more than just lead themselves; they called on others to take up the tasks of the day.  Less than four weeks after President Kennedy was shot, his brother Bobby wrote a new Foreword for a memorial edition of John’s book “Profiles in Courage”. The words written by Bobby Kennedy 48 years ago are relevant to our task today:

“The energies and talents of all of us are needed to meet the challenges – the internal ones of our cities, our farms, ourselves – to be successful in the fight for freedom around the globe, in the battles against illiteracy, hunger and disease.  Pleasantries, self-sustained mediocrity will serve us badly. We need the best of many – not of just a few. We must strive for excellence.”

I like to emphasize this point after Stephen Lewis speaks because his matchless speaking skills can be a little intimidating. Even in a confident crowd, many of us may feel inadequate and ill-equipped in comparison.  But it takes more than the actions of Stephen Lewis to combat the forces that propagate the AIDS pandemic. What did Bobby Kennedy say? We need the best of many – not of just of few. We must all strive for excellence. Strive is an action verb. To strive means to put your whole & considerable force behind this effort.

I hope you are already quite convinced that we should do our part to address the realities of HIV in the world. If so, you are not alone. Let us donate. Let us educate. And let us activate all the resources within our reach to strive together toward a world without AIDS.

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About Jane Philpott

Dr. Jane Philpott is the founding chair of Give a Day to World AIDS which has raised over 3.5 million dollars for those affected by HIV in Africa. Dr. Philpott is Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital and President and Lead Physician of the Health for All Family Health Team in Markham, Ontario. She has helped develop a Global Health curriculum for the Markham Family Medicine Teaching Unit. Dr. Philpott is part of the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration (TAAAC) that is supporting the introduction of a post-graduate training program in Family Medicine in Ethiopia. From 1989 to 1998, she practiced medicine in Niger, West Africa and developed an educational program for community health workers.